Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful

Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, United States
09 Jul 2021 - 03 Oct 2021

Alma Thomas, Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music, 1976 (detail) © Smithsonian American Art Museum Washington, DC

Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful spans a comprehensive overview of the artist’s long life (1891–1978) with approximately 100 works, including her rarely seen theatrical designs and beloved abstract paintings. The exhibition will track Thomas’s artistic journey from semi-rural Georgia to international recognition, demonstrating how her artistic practices extended to every facet of her life—from community service and teaching to gardening and dress.

Unlike a traditional biography, the exhibition will be organized around multiple themes from Thomas’s experience. These themes include the context of Thomas’s Washington Color School cohort, the creative communities connected to Howard University, and peers who protested museums that failed to represent artists of color. Co-curators Jonathan Frederick Walz, PhD, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American Art at The Columbus Museum and Seth Feman, PhD, the Chrysler’s Deputy Director for Art & Interpretation and Curator of Photography will intentionally include diverse artworks and archival materials. These elements will reveal Thomas’s complex and deliberate artistic existence before, during, and after the years of her “mature” output and career-making solo show at the Whitney Museum in 1972. She was the first African American woman to have a retrospective at the famed New York institution.

“Despite the flurry of overdue attention, the artist’s long career is still inaccurately reduced to the late paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s,” Walz and Feman said. “The Columbus Museum’s rich holdings related to Thomas – a native of Columbus – offer the opportunity to present deeper insights into Thomas’s art and an inspiring look at how to lead a creative life.”




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